Fabio Quartararo says a first rostrum appearance at home in France feels “amazing” after realising his tyre combination was incorrect for the track conditions in the closing stages.
The factory Yamaha racer took the chequered flag third in the having led in the early stages, Quartraro admitting prior to the race that simply a top ten was his target should the French Grand Prix have taken place in mixed conditions, the five-time premier class winner confident of his chances in full wet or dry conditions.
Describing the 27-lap contest as the “strangest race of my life”, Quartararo conceded that his choice to move onto the soft compound rear tyre for his early switch to wets ended up being the wrong one for the ever-drying track across the final half of the encounter, but that he was satisfied to hang on to a first podium result in wet conditions.
“Honestly it was the strangest race of my life because I was in third and it started to rain, Jack (Miller) and Maverick (Vinales) were taking it a bit carefully so I thought I’d go for it and made a great overtake at the chicane,” said Quartararo.
“It was so difficult because we made a change to the (wet weather) bike in warm-up, and even though I made many mistakes in the last laps I was still there and before when I saw there was 20 laps to go with the front and rear soft tyres and the track was drying, I knew we weren’t in a great position.
“The gap to Taka (Nakagami) was quite big but then I saw it was Johann (Zarco) and he was so fast so I think the tyre combination he had from the middle to the end of the race was much better.
“I pushed a lot at the end because Bagnaia was coming so fast, I think he set the fastest lap of the race but I managed to hold on for my first podium in the wet.”
The Frenchman revealed he briefly forgot about MotoGP’s flag-to-flag rules as he tried to keep his M1 on track as the rain started to fall after only a few tours, before picking up a long-lap penalty when he finally did make his stop for pulling into team-mate Maverick Vinales’ pit stall rather than his own, but called the race “a great experience” despite the challenges he faced.
“Then when it started to rain a lot I wondered why there wasn’t a red flag, but then I remembered that we are in MotoGP and we have a second bike (flag-to-flag rules) and then in Turn 9 I nearly lost the rear because of the massive (grip) difference, so I came in (to pit) really slowly and I think the others caught me a lot,” continued Quartararo.
“I came in and went for the wrong bike as I nearly jumped on Mavericks, but overall it was a great experience and I never expected to achieve a podium in these conditions so I’m happy we made a step in the mixed conditions.”
Quartararo’s rostrum result lifted back into the lead of the points standings after chief rival Francesco Bagnaia finished just behind him in fourth, the former leading the way by just a single point over his Ducati adversary heading to Mugello for the Italian GP in two weeks time.
He reckoned that the French GP being held in wet conditions was “probably better” for him following the arm pump surgery he underwent after the Spanish GP less than a fortnight ago, saying it “feels so good” to be leading the way at the head of the table once again.
“It feels so good (leading the championship) because when you think back to Jerez it was a big shame because I was there to win because I felt so great, it was tough to accept but sometimes these things happen,” added Quartararo.
“We arrived here and straight away in the dry FP2 I felt good despite a bit of pain, it was probably better that we had this kind of race where we don’t have 27 laps pushing to the limit and it feels amazing to be on the podium after having the surgery.”